John Q (2002)



Critic Consensus: Washington's performance rises above the material, but John Q pounds the audience over the head with its message.

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A national health care crisis in the United States yields this tense drama from screenwriter James Kearns and director Nick Cassavetes, who experienced a real-life dilemma with his daughter's congenital heart disease that mirrors the one in this film. Denzel Washington stars as John Q. Archibald, a factory worker facing financial hardship as a result of reduced hours in his workplace. When his young son, Michael (Daniel E. Smith), is stricken during a baseball game, John and his wife, Denise (Kimberly Elise), discover that their child is in need of an emergency heart transplant. Although the Archibalds have health insurance, they are informed by hospital administrator Rebecca Payne (Anne Heche) that their policy doesn't cover such an expensive procedure. Unable to raise the money himself, John persuades the hospital's compassionate cardiac surgeon, Dr. Raymond Turner (James Woods), to waive his lofty fee, but is still left with too much of a financial burden to bear. With no recourse but to take his son home to die, John snaps and holds the staff and patients of the hospital's emergency room hostage at gunpoint. John is soon a media hero, the focus of intense news coverage, even as police chief Gus Monroe (Ray Liotta) and hostage negotiator Frank Grimes (Robert Duvall) try to resolve the situation before it leads to bloodshed. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi
PG-13 (for violence,language and intense thematic elements)
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Denzel Washington
as John Quincy Archibald
Robert Duvall
as Lt. Frank Grimes
James Woods
as Dr. Raymond Turner
Anne Heche
as Rebecca Payne
Eddie Griffin
as Lester Matthews
Kimberly Elise
as Denise Archibald
Shawn Hatosy
as Mitch Quigley
Ray Liotta
as Chief Gus Monroe
Daniel E. Smith
as Michael 'Mike' Archibald
Ethan Suplee
as Guard Max Conlin
Kevin Connolly
as Steve Maguire
Paul Johansson
as Tuck Lampley
Heather Wahlquist
as Julie Bird
Troy Beyer
as Miriam Smith
Obba Babatundé
as Sgt. Moody
Troy Winbush
as Steve Smith
David Thornton
as Jimmy Palumbo
Laura Harring
as Gina Palumbo
Larissa Laskin
as Dr. Ellen Klein
Dina Waters
as Debby Utley
Martha Chaves
as Rosa Gonzales
Gabriela Oltean
as Beautiful BMW Driver
Stephanie Moore
as Admitting Nurse
James Finnerty
as Nurse Reggie
Shera Danese
as Shelby's Wife
Scott Bloom
as Desk Guard
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Critic Reviews for John Q

All Critics (131) | Top Critics (36)

A coercive script by James Kearns, and some middling direction by Nick Cassavetes, can't rob the movie of an undeniable, headlong crowd-pleasing power as it tackles an issue that touches us all.

Full Review… | January 21, 2003
L.A. Weekly
Top Critic

A polemic in search of a plot.

Full Review… | November 6, 2002
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

Manipulative sentimentality, contrived plot and phony climax.

March 13, 2002
New York Observer
Top Critic

A sappy, melodramatic Denzel Washington vehicle that ensnares you in the standard hostage-movie scenario and doesn't let go until the director runs the whole playbook.

March 4, 2002
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

It pulls out more stops than that old silent serial The Perils of Pauline. Unfortunately, it's a talkie.

February 24, 2002
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

Cassavetes thinks he's making Dog Day Afternoon with a cause, but all he's done is to reduce everything he touches to a shrill, didactic cartoon.

Full Review… | February 21, 2002
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for John Q

John Q is a good drama film that could have been much better. With Denzel Washington in the lead, it single handily saves this film from a being a bad film. The script has its flaws, but for the most part it succeeds at delivering a good two hour film. Washington as usual delivers on-screen, and he alone makes this film watchable. I enjoyed the film, thought it was an exciting drama film with a good cast starring opposite Denzel Washington. This may not be the best dramatic thriller, but for what it is, it manages to be a thrill ride from beginning to end. There are things that could have been done better, but for the most part, Denzel Washington's good acting elevates the film from being a mediocre affair to a good film. This is a good film to watch for a mindless two hours. The film has its imperfections, but for most of the time, the formula delivers excitement, drama and thrills. At times the script suffers, but like I said, Washington's performance makes up for it. John Q is entertaining and is a must see film for Denzel Washington fans. This is an underrated film and it doesn't deserve all the flack it has received. Sure it has it flaws, but it is entertaining from start to finish, and it has another solid performance from Denzel Washington, an actor who can turn a somewhat lacking film into something watchable. This is a good film for what it is, and deserves a bit more praise than it has received.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

John Q. Archibald: My son is dying, and I'm broke. If I don't qualify for Medicare, WHO THE HELL DOES?  "Give a father no choice and you leave him no option" How far would a father go for his son? Yeah. That's never been done before. And guess what. It's been done way better. John Q is an unoriginal, cliche, overly dramatic movie that even manages to rip off Dog Day Afternoon. Denzel Washington is always good, so I'm not going to complain about him, as he was okay. Everyone else for the most part sucked. Duvall and Liota weren't what I would call bad, but they were playing characters they could play in their sleep. Heche and Woods were bad, but I think a lot of the was their material. Kimberly Elise was horrible as the mother of the dying kid. Okay, now for what I really don't like about this movie. The story is dramatic enough. We have a kid who needs a heart transplant and a father that can't pay for it. But Cassavates goes to extreme lengths to add as many cliche gimmicks as he can to the film. Such as a heart monitor counting down and a series of close calls for the father. He has no confidence in the material and feels the need to insert as much garbage as possible. The movie is very predictable. If you know the premise; after the first scene of the movie you will know what is going to happen.  John Q really is a bad movie. It should and could have been a tearjerker. But I was never emotionally involved. I honestly didn't care because I knew what was going to happen and I was really getting sick of watching the horrible dialogue and characters. I believe the common moviegoer will love this movie. But if you've seen more then 3 or 4 of these type of movies; do yourself a favor and give this one a pass.

Melvin White
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

Denzel can't save this awfully directed movie. Awful direction/cinematography/script. There's literally a scene where a woman goes, "Why are you so brave?" ...the hell? Denzel carries this movie. Without him, this movie would've been crap.

Albert Kim
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer

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